Tuesday, September 25, 2007


originally uploaded by danwaugh.
Bob mentioned the Indians clinching a playoff spot on Sunday. In fact, they clinched the division and are looking to lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs by ending with the best record in baseball.

Needless to say, my boys and I are cautiously optimistic! I just hope we don't have to play those blasted Yankees in the first round.

God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens

Today I was in Borders and saw a hardback in the new realease section. The title, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I picked it up and thumbed through it. I didn't buy it, not yet. I read the back cover and the endorsements. One stood out, it's from the New Yorker and praises Hitchens as "An intellectual willing to show his teeth in the cause of righteousness".

I would love to talk with the person who wrote the endorsement and ask them not only how this book serves the cause of righteousness, but what they think righteousness is. Apart from God, I can not conceive of righteousness, and every attempt to define righteousness apart from God seems to me to fall flat on its face.

The most common definer of 'right' apart from God is usually a sense of commonly held norms. What a community deems to be right is what defines right. Even on the surface, this is flawed. What about the indigenous tribes of Bolivia that, until recently, buried twins alive because they thought they were evil. It was the norm. It was deemed right (to keep them alive jeopardized the well being of the tribe - it was for the good of the group that this attrocity was justified). On such a reasoning, racism in the south was right, if the majority agreed it was right.

No, there must be some greater definer of right/wrong, good/evil than a communal sense of it. But what is it? Can anyone make any case for any definition of 'righteousness' apart from God?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great Luther quote

Ok, so I don't agree with everything is the quote, but I like the 'sticking it to the devil' attitude.

"Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to."

I decided my next book has to be about Luther (I can read him with a Sam Adams in hand)!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Do evangelicals take the Bible literally?

This question is not as cut and dry as one might think. The natural impulse is to say, yes, of course. But don't be so quick, or you might not like the corner you paint yourself into!

For example, even those who claim to take the Bible literally must admit that there is metaphor, simile, symbolism, etc. No one I know of takes the picture of a sword coming out of Jesus mouth in Revelation 19 literally – it becomes quite a grotesque picture if you do. Or Psalm 64:7 speaks of God shooting his arrows at his enemies. Again, I don't know anyone who thinks God's got a big compound bow in heaven and is taking aim. So, does anyone really take the Bible literally?

I actually don't like using the word 'literal'. When asked if I take the Bible literally, a negative response will make other Christians nervous. If I say I do, then I many people assume I take all portions of the Bible in this literal, wooden sense. Can I suggest that 'faithfully' is a better word.

By faithfully I mean that we take potions of the Bible literally that were intended to be taken, and present themselves in a literal fashion. In this category, I would include the Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Joshua, David and the like. Also, I would include all the Gospel stories of miracles, including the literally bodily resurrection of Jesus. This sets me apart, and other evangelicals apart from those who interpret these stories as great myths or merely nice religious stories with no factual basis. Much of the Bible is written as a historical record of God's interaction with his creation. These events are presented as literal facts and must be taken by the faithful Bible interpreter literally – in the natural, intended sense of the author.

But, by using the word 'faithful', I am not chained to wooden literal interpretations of passages that were intended to be taken as word pictures. I already mentioned some of those passages above. There are many more. For example, Jesus' statement from John 2 about rebuilding the temple in three days shouldn't be taken literally in the sense that he was going to rebuild the Jerusalem temple in three days. That's exactly why the Jewish leaders didn't get what Jesus was saying – they were reading/hearing him too literally.

Oh yeah, and by using the word 'faithfully' instead of literally, I allow myself the read the Bible as Jesus and the apostles did. They did not read their Old Testament only literally, but also typologically. What do I mean? I mean that they saw in the Old Testament all kinds of patterns and types (symbols) that were fulfilled in the New Testament. For example, the New Testament authors see the exodus from Egypt as a pattern, a type, that was meant to foreshadow the churches exodus from bondage to sin and death. This does not mean that they denied the literal exodus event, but they say it as pointing to something greater.

How do you know what is a 'faithful' interpretation of Scripture? I can offer a few suggestions here. First, look at the larger context of Scripture. How does Scripture interpret itself? I have heard people explain fuller, more spiritual meanings of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, where each detail of the story is said to stand for something spiritual. However, Scripture doesn't interpret itself that way. Nowhere is this parable interpreted this way. The same is not true of the exodus event. Scripture does represent our deliverance from sin and slavery as another exodus. So pay attention to how the Bible interprets itself (the Reformers referred to this principle as the 'analogy of faith').

Secondly, though I affirm sola Scriptura, I also want to affirm the benefit of consulting the church, both past and present, in the interpretation of Scripture. By referring to the present church, I don't mean the pastors, though we are a part of it. I mean, instead, the community of faith. There is tremendous benefit of reading, studying, interpreting and applying Scripture in community, not merely in isolation. That doesn't mean we don't spend alone time in the Word, but it does mean we don't only spend alone time in the word. Talk with other about what you're learning. Ask other Christians, "does my understanding of this ring true to you?" We were made for community, it is a gift. Use it.